The Toronto International Film Festival, fast becoming a major stop on the fest circuit, announced a slate of 300 films this week, and, in an attempt to stem criticism that they've gone too Hollywood in recent years, they've doubled the number of films from first-time directors. (That is, of course, the ultimate Hollywood statement--striving for Tinseltown acceptance and then denying it when it comes.)

Even so, there will be no shortage of star wattage as Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Sylvester Stallone, Holly Hunter, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda are all expected to appear, and DreamWorks' animated Antz will be the closing-night fare September 19. Festivities commence September 10 with the Canadian drama The Red Violin, starring Samuel L. Jackson.

While the increased number of first-time directors (up to 83 from 47 last year) will bring an indie flave to the party, the roster largely reads like a Who's Who of Sundance and Cannes notables, with more than 15 films that unspooled at those fests also playing Toronto. Notable among these are Roberto Benigni's Grand Prix-winning Life is Beautiful and Sundance hit Central Station.

Also notable on this year's slate are Bryan Singer's Oscar-buzzing Apt Pupil with Ian McKellen, the Christian Slater-Cameron Diaz vehicle Very Bad Things, Drew Barrymore's long-awaited Home Fries, Luminous Motion with Deborah Unger and Sharon Stone's The Mighty.

One film that won't be showing in Toronto is American History X, which had been scheduled to premiere at the fest, but New Line yanked it after suffering through months of battles with director Tony Kaye. The skinhead film stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong.

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